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Grayson Allen displayed multiple facets of his game in preseason opener

You know who he is, he’s Grayson Allen. But do you really know him?

Phoenix Suns v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Grayson Allen made his Phoenix Suns’ debut on Sunday afternoon, and it was more than a quality first impression that he enjoyed in their overtime win against the Detroit Pistons. It was his 28th birthday. Libra’s rock, am I right?

His addition to the Suns’ roster was welcomed with mixed emotions. A player who has been labeled as “dirty” since his days playing at Duke University, Allen plays with a toughness, grit, and physicality that the finesse Suns’ roster needs. I use the moniker “eff s*** up” guy, as every team needs one, and Allen fits the bill. Like a Taylor Swift hit song, Allen has been playing the role of an anti-hero since he came into the league in 2018.

Add to the fact that he is a player who can create his own shot off the dribble, and he fills a void that has existed in Phoenix over the past few seasons. On Sunday we witnessed what and how he can contribute to the Suns’ success.

Allen played a total of 20 minutes in Detroit, being part of Frank Vogel’s first substitution pattern. He was part of the Suns’ offensive onslaught in the first quarter, one that saw the team go 17-of-20 from the field and score 46 points. 46! In the first quarter of the new era! You couldn’t help but be excited for what this team’s potential could be.

Grayson agreed, stating after the game that, “I don’t want to jinx it, but I think that’s going to happen a lot.”

His final stat line? A team-high 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. Not too shabby for an introduction on Planet Orange. He did so with off-the-dribble jumpers, catch-and-shoot three-pointers, and by attacking the cylinder.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Allen said after the game. “The ball is moving, guys are moving, switching sides, getting a lot of great looks. A lot of ball movement, a lot of drive-and-kick stuff. We had a couple possessions where we didn’t even end up in a shot. We just over-passed, guys were driving, kicking, moving the ball, trying to get the best shot. So it’s a lot of fun playing with guys that are as unselfish as they are.”

You wouldn’t define his versatility as an offensive player as “elite”, and given his reputation you’d probably not include it on your list of “what is he known for”. But Grayson has been an effective offensive player through his first five seasons in the NBA. He is a career 39.5% shooter from beyond the arc, but last season he posted a career high in assists, dishing 2.3 a night for the Milwaukee Bucks. Granted, that was in a starting role, but his per-36 career average is 2.6 assists.

Having both Allen and Gordon coming off the bench for Phoenix provides a level of depth that should not be taken lightly in the NBA. And – if and when injuries occur – he possesses the ability to start and be productive.

One of his most impressive offensive sets in preseason game numero uno was this give-and-go that led to two points. Not easy in the slightest, he began by passing the ball off to Drew Eubanks. He slipped Cade Cunningham and received the pass as he cut towards the lane, only to find the 6’11” Marvin Bagley waiting for him. He outmaneuvered him, however, and went left aground the outstretched arm of Bagley for the lay-in.

His off-the-ball movement isn’t something you bring up when you talk to your fellow basketball savants. No, it’s generally a reference to him tripping ACC opponents in 2017 or an unfortunate hard foul on Alex Caruso. There is a reason he’s still in the NBA, and it’s because of the work he does in other non-physical aspects of the game.

He’s been doing it for five seasons, adapting his play along the way. With numerous stops he has increased his basketball IQ along the way. He noted on Suns Media Day that, while playing at Duke, “Each year Coach K just kind of adapted to the team that we had. I had a huge offensive year my sophomore year, and my junior year we had a very different team and a much more talented team. We played differently. I played a different way. Four years I had four very different roles.”

What lies before him is, as he says, is a “good opportunity to take advantage of being in some of those different spots.” This team will open up his skill set and the spots he is referring to will see less defenders than he is used to. Knowing Vogel will use substitution patterns to ensure that Durant, Booker, or Beal are on the court with Allen is something that will increase his effectiveness as an offensive player.

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